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Creating A Wedding Timeline That Works For You | From a Recent Bride & Photographer

One of the first things I remind my clients during an inquiry call or check in to discuss timeline is that your day is not about photography. Your day is about the two of you, your love, and celebrating with your favorite people.

With all that being said, I want to find a way to make photography work around those special moments so it feels like a natural part of your day and you can be relaxed and stress free knowing that all the big and little moments are going to be captured.

So how do you create a wedding day timeline that allows for that?

Big biggest advice is to work with a wedding planner or day of coordinator! These are professionals who do this all the time. They know how the normal flow of a day goes, they know how to keep things on schedule, they expect the unexpected, and help you create a day that is as relaxed and stress free as possible.

When planning our own wedding, I knew that peace of mind the day of my wedding was my number one priority. Because in my perspective, if I was stressed out about little details, I wasn't able to be fully present in the moment and enjoy my day. Which is what it's all about.

Hiring a planner/day of coordinator is the best investment you can make.

Ok, so now you know my feelings on that... back to creating a timeline.

Here a few of my biggest tips from planning my own wedding & being a wedding photographer over the last several years.

1. Don't rush.

Allow for enough coverage time of all your vendors that let's you truly enjoy your day.

For example: hire your photographer for long enough so you can have time to get those photos of you popping bottles or dancing with your girls. Taking the time to truly embrace each moment without rushing to the next is so important on your wedding day. It already flies by fast!

2. Consider your locations.

Sometimes this is unavoidable, but keep in mind location planning. You get to enjoy more of your day when everything happens all in one place. There is usually less moving parts, wedding party and guests don't have to leave, and you get to spend more time with the people you love.

But if having everything in one location is not an option just be thoughtful of the proximity of your getting ready location, ceremony, photo locations and reception.

3. Set Clear Expectations

There are so many moving parts and lots of people involved in your wedding day. Make sure all your vendors, wedding party, and family are familiar with the timeline and what their responsibilities are. From where to be and when, to times to be dressed by, and little things like who is cleaning up the hotel room or checking on the dogs during the reception.

(yes we had someone do that)

4. Portraits before the Ceremony

The idea of a 'first look' has been super popular over the last few years and I understand why! Not only do you get to spend more time with your hubby-to-be on your wedding day but it also allows you to get more photos done before the ceremony and enjoy more of your party.

But first looks aren't for everyone - and I get that!

I'm a photographer, and I didn't even do a first look for my wedding.

But there are still ways you can get more portraits done before the ceremony. You can still do bridesmaid & groomsmen portraits done prior to the ceremony and if you have a second shooter, you can get them done at the same time! That way, after the ceremony all you have to do it put the whole party together.

5. Be thoughtful when creating your family photo list

The more intricate and multiple combinations of family photos takes time away from joining your cocktail hour. But I understand that these are super important pictures, so just be thoughtful when deciding how extended you want to go with family photos.

Remember, you can always grab more informal pictures during cocktail hour and the reception of larger groups.

*Pro Tip: let the family members you want to include in family portraits know ahead of time to meet you at the photo location and wait to join cocktail hour.

**Extra Pro Tip: Put another family member (that's not you) in charge of making sure your family is present during this time.

6. Make time for sunset photos

When choosing the time for your ceremony, keep in mind what time the sun will be setting and the option to sneak out for sunset photos. Not only does this give you the opportunity to get dreamy glowy photos - it also give you a chance to reconnect with your partner in the hectic busyness of the day.

When creating timeline, just keep in mind when sunset happens so that you're not planning dinner, speeches, or dances during the golden time.

**Pro Tip: Schedule sunset photos right after you eat dinner. This is the best time to sneak away because your guests are still eating but you've finished up. That way you're not missing out on dancing!

Photo by Mary-Claire Photography from our wedding

After seeing so many weddings over the years we were pretty clear about what we wanted, and didn't want. Here are a few things we did to make for a smooth timeline and stress free day.

  • Everything was at one location - ALL WEEKEND.

  • We hosted a welcome party the night before to hang out with guests all weekend and feel less pressure to "make rounds" on our wedding day.

  • Hired a planner and a rockstar team of vendors who we trusted and knew would execute our vision.

  • Yoga in the morning - it helped us get into the right mindset going into the day.

  • Help yourself breakfasts - no one had to cook.

  • All my bridesmaids did their own hair & makeup (because they wanted to). But this allowed for a really relaxing environment getting ready. Everyone brought their own mirror and we started getting ready early so we could take our time and enjoy the day.

  • My favorite - No sit down dinner. We did heavy apps all night long and this made for the most relaxing timeline because we weren't working on the kitchen's schedule. People were able to eat, drink, and dance when they wanted to.

  • We created a timeline that would keep the dance floor full (which is what we wanted). I started with a toast that invited everyone on the dance floor. Then an hour later we did parent dances and half-way through my mother-daughter dance we invited other mother-daughters to join to fill the dance floor again. Which kept it full all night long.

  • Sparkler Dance vs. Sparkler Exit. We were staying at the same location so it didn't feel right to do an exit and we didn't have photo/video coverage until the end of the night so we decided to do a sparkler dance which was one of my favorite moments!

And lastly, my biggest words of advice...

7. Make your day your own.

There is no "right way" to do something. Couples are always breaking traditions and doing what fits their style and vision for the day. Think about how you envision your day and create a timeline that reflects that and is a true representation of who you guys are as a couple.

It's a celebration of your love.

Questions? Need some helpful hints? Send an email to and I'd be happy to share my insight as a past bride & photographer.

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